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A Maine man pleaded guilty this week to trespassing on the Old Faithful thermal area and running up to the geyser multiple times while waving an American flag last July.

Aaron E. Merritt, 37, failed to appear for a court hearing several weeks after the offense and a warrant was issued for his arrest, according to a news release from the Wyoming U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Merrit was arrested on June 5, 2021 in Maine and appeared before Magistrate Judge Mark L. Carman in Mammoth Hot Springs on July 1.

According to the release, Merritt, wearing a raccoon skin hat and waving an American flag, ran out onto the thermal area and up to the geyser of Old Faithful multiple times on July 7, 2020. Thermal areas in the park are unstable and thin, making it dangerous to walk or stand on the area unless on a marked boardwalk or path.

Carman sentenced Merritt to 15 days of imprisonment with credit for four days already served and to pay $240 in fines and court fees.

The judge also banned Merritt from entering the park.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Hambrick.

“Yellowstone National Park has rules and regulations in place to protect park resources and help keep visitors safe,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray in the Friday news release announcing the plea and sentencing. “This case ended with federal charges and time in prison, but it could have been much worse. If Mr. Merrick had fallen through the thermal feature, he would have most likely lost his life.”

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at or at (406) 582-2651.

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